Responding to concerns of broadcasters who plan sell their spectrum in the incentive auction next year, the FCC said they may wait until after the auction before entering into channel-sharing arrangements so they stay in the broadcasting business. The action may encourage more stations to participate in the auction and help preserve “independent voices” in broadcasting, the FCC said.
TV broadcasters who opt to sell their spectrum in the FCC’s incentive auction next year may enter in channel sharing arrangements after the auction, the FCC ruled today.
Prior to the ruling, stations had to cut such deals prior to the auction.
Channel sharing allows a station to sell its spectrum, but stay in the broadcasting business by doubling up with another station on another channel.
The FCC placed two conditions on post-auction sharing deals. First, it said, broadcasters must inform the agency of their intention to share prior to the auction and, second, they must execute their sharing deals by the date they would otherwise have to relinquish their license.
Broadcasters who enter in post-auction sharing deals will be entitled to the same cable carriage rights as those who strike pre-auction deals, the FCC said.
The agency also noted, however, that only broadcasters with pre-auction sharing deals will be exempt from the prohibition against talking to one another before and during the auction.
The FCC action was a win for the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition, which represents stations that intend to sell in the auction and had petitioned for the changes.
Citing the EOBC, the FCC said the modifications will encourage more stations to participate in the auction — ones who do not find a channel sharing partner before the auction begins.
” Indeed, as EOBC notes, parties may be able to negotiate [sharing arrangements] more readily after the auction is complete, when fewer variables remain unknown,” the FCC said.
“This action also may help to preserve independent voices by enabling licensees to continue broadcasting after they voluntarily relinquish rights in the incentive auction.”
“Our coalition is very grateful to the FCC Staff and Commissioners for listening to our concerns about the channel sharing rules and then acting decisively to adopt new more relaxed rules,” said Preston Padden, head of the EOBC.
“The new rules will greatly increase the feasibility of broadcasters entering into sharing arrangements and increase the likelihood of a successful auction.”